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Vaginal Cancer

About the Department

A part of the female reproductive system, starting at the cervix and located at the lower end of the uterus with an opening at the vulva is the vagina. It has collapsible walls with many folds that touches each other and can also open and expand during intercourse or when giving birth. A thin layer of epithelium containing squamous epithelial cells covers the vaginal walls. 

During a precancerous stage, conditions like vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia or vaginal dysplasia can develop where abnormal cells may turn cancerous in the vagina for select women. Found with cervical dysplasia or cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, these abnormal cells are actually a precancerous lesion of the cervix.

An uncommon type, vaginal cancer starts when healthy cells in the vagina transform to abnormal cells and begin to multiply exponentially. As a result, it forms a mass that is referred to as a tumour, which may be malignant or benign. In the case of a malignant tumour, it can keep growing and penetrate other body parts, thereby spreading the cancerous cells. 

There is less chance of the cancer that starts growing from the vagina than other cancers infiltrating the healthy cells in the vagina. Statistics say that only 1 in 1100 women get vaginal cancer in their lifetime. 

More common in women over 60 and above, approximately half the cases of vaginal cancer develop in women who are over 70 years or above. There’s been only 15% cases reported of vaginal cancer occurring in women who are below the age of 40 or younger. 

At Fortis Hospitals, Bannerghatta Road, we have a dedicated department treating all types of ovarian cancers. Our team of experts are skilled and trained with the knowledge to provide the right treatment and care for patients suffering from vaginal cancer. Your care team at Fortis is multidisciplinary and comprises of gynaecologic oncologists, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, plastic surgeons and specialist nurses who are prepared to battle your vaginal cancer to the best of their medical abilities. 

We have a team of dedicated specialists who are recognised in their respective disciplines of medicine and are committed towards providing you with the best patient care. Alongside your treatment, we also have support groups who are there to help you and your family cope with the physical and emotional effects of cancer and its treatment. 

Areas of Care

Even though vaginal cancer is uncommon, there are multiple types and Fortis Hospitals have specialists to treat all of them. The more common forms are:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Adenocarcinoma

However, there are some rare types of vaginal cancer such as:

  • Melanoma 
  • Clear cell adenocarcinoma

At Fortis, we have state-of-the-art facilities, that gives access to our patients to modern cancer treatment and the latest in surgical therapy in Bangalore. 

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Signs and Symptoms of Vaginal Cancers

Vaginal cancer at its early stages where the cancer is yet to penetrate into other organs in the body displays minor symptoms that can lead to detection. However, in most cases, only when the cancer has advanced are the symptoms more prominent. 

At the precancerous stage, the symptoms include:

- If you notice frequent abnormal vaginal bleeding especially post intercourse
- If you observe heavy vaginal discharge
- If you feel a lump or a mass in the vaginal area
- If you experience pain during intercourse

Symptoms if the vaginal cancer has infiltrated into the nearby structures and lymph nodes become more pronounced. They include:

- If you experience pain every time you urinate
- If you have frequent constipation
- If you experience pain in the pelvis or the lower abdominal regions
- If you have constant back pain
- If you notice swelling in your legs

Just because you have one or more of these symptoms does not mean that you have vaginal cancer. Most of these symptoms can be indicators of other harmless disorders too. However, in order to be absolutely sure, it is best to consult a healthcare professional who will be able to guide you in the right direction.

Our Diagnostic Services

You should see a doctor if you have been experiencing persistent symptoms of vaginal cancer. Your general physician may refer you to a specialist. During your first consultation with the specialist, he or she may go through your medical history and discuss the symptoms that you are currently facing. Depending on this, you may be requested to undergo a series of diagnostic tests that may include:

- Pelvic Examination:

During this screening the vagina and pelvis regions are examined by your doctor so that the size and location of the cancer can be determined.

- Pap Smear Test:

During the pelvic examination, the doctor scrapes a sample of your vaginal cells with a swap that is later tested for the presence of cancer under laboratory conditions. 

- Biopsy:

A sample tissue is collected from the vaginal area and then analysed under a microscope to detect the presence of malignant cells. 

- Colposcopy:

Using a colposcope, it closely examines the cervix and the vagina to find abnormalities in the tissue. 

- Endoscopic tests

This screening may be needed on a case to case basis. There are two types of endoscopic tests:

  • Proctosigmoidoscopy
  • Cystoscopy

To see if the cancer has spread to other regions in the body, the following tests may be prescribed:

- Imaging Tests

- Chest x-ray
- Computed tomography (CT) scan

  • CT-guided needle biopsy

- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan 
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan

Once you have the outcome of the diagnostic screenings in hand, you must visit your specialist at Fortis. After analysing the results, your specialist will be able to give you an accurate diagnosis and confirm if vaginal cancer has been detected. If there’s any uncertainty, your specialist may recommend further diagnostic tests.

Treatment Options

Once the diagnosis of vaginal cancer has been confirmed, your care team at Fortis Hospitals, Bannerghatta Road, will discuss the available treatment plans with you and your family. You should give all your treatments options careful consideration. After consulting with your specialist and your family, have a comprehensive understanding the treatment choices at your disposal and understand the possible risks and side effects of each option. 

If the cancer is at a precancerous stage, then two treatments routes are possible:

  • Laser surgery (vaporization)
  • Topical treatments

A more traditional road to treating vaginal cancer may include one or a combination of the following therapies:

- Surgical therapy makes use of laser to cut through and extract the affected tissue. In a select few cases, surgery may be used to remove the vagina partly or fully. For some rare cases, the cervix and the organs may also have to be removed. Surgical therapy options may include:

  • Vaginectomy
  • Hysterectomy

- Radiation therapy uses x-ray beams that are high powered to destroy the cancerous cells. It can may be used externally or internally depending on your condition and treatment requirements.

- Chemotherapy reduces the impact or kills the malignant cells by using drugs that are injected into the body through an IV.

Your treatment will be determined by the type, stage and grade of your vaginal cancer. Other factors that also come into play are the patient’s age, present health condition, if the patient desires to have children in the future and personal preferences of the patient too. Before making a decision, ensure that you have an understanding of the risks and side effects associated with your treatment plan. At Fortis, your care team will consist of your specialist and will be assisted by psychologists, practise nurses, rehabilitation specialists who will emotionally and physically support you and your family through your complete treatment phase. 

Our Team That Cares

By communicating and collaborating closely, your care team at Fortis Hospitals at Bannerghatta Road will ensure that you receive the most efficient and comprehensive care. The Department of Ovarian Cancer at Fortis treats every individual vaginal cancer patient with a level of experience and expertise so that the outcomes of the treatment are successful. By incorporating new research and technologies in vaginal cancer treatment, we support and treat the whole person, not just cancer alone.